Is he a Machiavellian scribophile?

Twelve years ago – over in his favourite place, Australia – Lord Alistair McAlpine was promoting a book about somebody he seems to admire….Prince Machiavelli. Funny how the desire to promote book sales can come back to haunt a man anxious to cultivate an image for unworldly naivety and scrupulous honesty. The Slog invites all those with an open mind to judge for themselves about just who has been manipulating whom over the last five days.

I can’t claim anything approaching an exclusive on this one. I have been sent this interview with Lord Alistair McAlpine during 2000 in Australia by no fewer than nine Sloggers. It is, shall we say, incredibly revealing. And my guess is that most readers (and few if any currently terrified hacks) have read it.

The interview was to promote Lord Alistair McAlpine’s then new book, The New Machiavelli: The Art of Politics in Business. I am, by the way, repeating Lord Alistair McAlpine’s exact name ad nauseam to ensure that nobody is misled as to whether he did actually write this book, or whether one of the many other McAlpines did so, and then ran away.

Because that simply isn’t true, you see: Lord Alistair McAlpine wrote this book. No other McAlpines were involved in the writing of this book. This book was not produced in a factory making McAlpines. None of Alfred James ‘Jimmie’ McAlpine (1908-1991) who lived at Gerwyn Hall, Marchwiel, Wrexham (the son of Sir Alfred David McAlpine (1881-1944). Lord McAlpine of West Green is the son of Robert, Baron McAlpine of Moffat (1907-1990), the son of William McAlpine (1871-1951), who was the son of Sir Robert McAlpine 1st Bt. (1847-1934) played any role in the writing of the book. Not so much as a footnote.

Lord McAlpine’s Great Grandfather was the same as A.J. ‘Jimmie’ McAlpine’s Grandfather. That makes him a cousin, once removed. But nobody except Lord Alistair McAlpine played any role in the writing of this book, and you can probably rest assured that the McAlpine lawyers will vigorously pursue the entire fortune of anyone who suggests otherwise, allegedly.

Sorry, sorry. Just been on to the legals. I’d like to add that nobody involved in the writing of this book either is or ever has been a paedophile. Excellent.

Anyway, let’s first of all examine the similarities between the content of his entirely self-penned book, and Lord Alistair McAlpine’s behaviour over the last ten days. No doubt all of us can recall in graphic detail how Lord Alistair talked of the horror, dicky-heart anxiety, and utter shock of the discovery that his name was being associated with heinous sexual perversion. He had definitely been knocked to the ground and besmirched, and felt defeated, lost, beside himself, and horrified. From the Oz 2000 interview:

‘McAlpine’s advice on dealing with the media? Spread false defeat to gain public sympathy; or false accusation and then arrange for it to be exposed as such – so the accuser will forever be treated with suspicion.’

Hmm. Words like Radio Four, the Daily Mail, Boris Johnson and Steve Messham spring to mind.

Moving swiftly on, we’ve all seen, heard, and been stunned by this poor old innocent codger who’s never been anything other than scrupulously honest and straightforward. However, in 2000 Lord Alistair readily acquiesced in this description of the book:

‘A book on how to manipulate people for the greater good’

Well Lordy Lordy Lordy and Ali my stair. Good grief old boy, that’s a bit strong. Still, the Establishment and its mysterious ways are, I think we should all agree, worth saving. Well yes, they are. But I’m a little disturbed by one example in the book used to make his point. This we’re told is the key to successful public speaking:

‘Fake a speech impediment: a sudden stutter gets the audience’s attention like nothing else.’

Great Scott sir, how very dare you. Do you not know that Alistair has a dicky heart, can only speak quietly and yet here you are suggesting that he is a fake and a phoney when needs be, well all I can say is….oh hang on, sorry: he’s talking about himself. Oh dear. Right.

Well hahahahaha. Only kidding you know. Alistair’s always been a kidder. Loves a prank. See in this Barnes & Noble publisher’s blurb how the real, genuine and gentle Lord Alistair comes through:

‘Ignore the latest buzz about the kinder, gentler world of new age, team-based management. It’s dog-eat-dog out there, and the sooner you realize it, the better. The New Machiavelli mines Machiavelli’s The Prince for the timeless rules and stratagems that can help today’s business rulers survive and prosper in the jungle of greed and treachery that is commerce.’

Before things get any more embarrassing for Lord Alistair McAlpine, let’s move on to that article his brother Sir William McAlpine wrote in the Mail on Sunday last weekend. In it, Sir William asserts:

‘My brother is one of the most honourable people I know….We were brought up – with youngest brother David – by our father Lord McAlpine of Moffat, never to tell a lie. What was being alleged about Alistair was abhorrent.’

I’m glad we’ve cleared that one up. Only, there does seem to be a bit of a mismatch between that description of Lord Alistair, and the Machiavelli-admiring red-in-tooth-and-claw Sir Alistair being marketed to an unsuspecting public by Barnes & Noble twelve years ago. I say: do you think Sir William himself might be confused on the identity thing here? Only, it would explain the difference.

But no, that can’t be can it? I mean, in the Mail piece Sir William makes it quite clear he knows a Jimmy from an Alistair, by noting in passing:

‘The boys who were victimised said they were taken to work on the garden of a Cheshire estate. Another member of my family did have a house there.’

Come now, Sir William, don’t be coy. We all know that was Jimmie McAlpine, Chairman of the McAlpine firm mining slate for building in the area. You know: Jimmie the man with 12 year-old caddies on the same golf course as that frequented by the two paedophile house-leaders who got banged up after the Bry Estyn scandal finally broke through the police cordon. Yes, that’s the one. Don’t get pulled down by False Memory Syndrome whatever you do.
But hang on a minute here. Hasn’t The Slog been bombarded for the last week with apologists saying there was no reason on earth why poor old Lord Alistair – Sir William’s brother – should even know of Jimmie’s existence? Yet here is Sir William clearly demonstrating (albeit with the customarily vague McAlpine brevity) that he knew who this chap was. Ah well. I suppose he just never thought to mention it to his, erm, brother.
Tune in with me now to Lord Alistair’s Radio Four World at One interview three days ago. Early on he says this:
“I have a big family most of whom are engaged in business or charitable undertakings on a whole range of things. They’re well known. This was as damaging to them as it was to me.”
OK then, fair play. If they were well-known, you must’ve known about Jimmie, Alistair surely? Let’s see here on the heavily-laden McAlpine family tree: Jimmie McAlpine: born 1908, died 1991. And then we have Alistair, born in 1942. So you cohabited the same family with the same surname for almost half a century. Well then, you wouldn’t have heard of him, would you?
And this is confirmed when BBC interviewer BM asks how Lord McAlpine thinks the mistaken identity might have occurred:
‘BM: It is extraordinary – do you have any idea how that could have happened? I mean it seems an extraordinary story.

LMc: It is an extraordinary story and probably more of it will slowly trickle out, over the years, I’ve no doubt. We’ll find things out. People will say things.

BM: But you don’t have any idea at this point of time?

LMc: Well I have my own ideas, but I’m not about to sort of air them because I strongly feel people ought to be damn sure about something before they air it.’

A bit Machiavellian there, Lord Alistair? A bit, shall we say, economical with the truth? Or not. Who knows. As he himself says, it’ll all trickle out in the end. Oh and – while we’re here going full circle back to Australia in 2000 – a little reprise if I may to what he said then….
‘McAlpine’s advice on dealing with the media? Spread false defeat to gain public sympathy’

….followed by what he said three days ago on Radio Four:

‘BM: And let me talk about your reputation.

LMc: Yes.

BM: How much damage do you think there’s done and can this ever be repaired?

LMc: No it can’t be repaired. It can be repaired to a point. But there is a British proverb which is insidious and awful where people say “there’s no smoke without a fire”, you know, “he appears to be innocent, but…” ‘

False defeat? Anyone out there in lalaland who thinks Lord Alistair McAlpine’s reputation hasn’t been fully repaired? Does anyone doubt that he has gained public sympathy from it?

This from the Daily Telegraph yesterday:

‘Lord McAlpine was greeted with applause when he arrived for lunch at The Wolseley this week….A number of other peers are writing messages of support to him, and he was said to have been buoyed by the reaction he received at The Wolseley on Wednesday after flying to London from his home in Italy to consult lawyers about the damage to his reputation.’

I think we’d call that Mission Accomplished, don’t you?


Look everyone, I’m tired of trying to teach grandmothers who should know better how to suck eggs. To summarise for the last time:

1. I have never accused Lord McAlpine of being a paedophile. Others have because they’re come-lately, ignorant, sloppy twerps. But I haven’t.

2. My only beef is with the disingenuous nature of McAlpine family interviews over the last week.

3. It is naive bordering on IQ-in-single-figures to suggest that Lord Alistair has ever been anything but an extremely media-savvy bloke. You do not get to be Tory Chairman for 15 years, succeed in business, and gain the respect of Baroness Thatcher by being a silly old wazzock. You do not make a fortune investing in Aussie land, and you do not write and publicise a book about how to manipulate the emotions of others….based on the ideas of Prince Machiavelli.

4. I find it very hard indeed to believe that Lord Alistair has never, ever heard of the flamboyant reputation surrounding his cousin Jimmie. But here again I intend no libel: as I posted earlier this week, if Lord Alistair McAlpine is happy to say on the record that this is the case, I will happily donate £2000 to the care home of my choice. I do realise that this is £183,000 less than the BBC Award Lord Alistair didn’t donate to Children in Need yesterday, but every little helps.

5. I have not the remotest clue if either Lord Alistair or Sir William McAlpine is part of some wicked Daily Mail, Boris Johnson, MI5, Westminster, Masonic, Elders of Zion coordinated conspiracy to cover the tracks of those in power with oddly controlling tendencies towards the nether parts of infants. But I can observe this: we are three weeks into Savile and ten days into Bryn Estyn, and so far not a single one of the well-described, well-heeled bastards who ruined the lives of hundreds of vulnerable Welsh kids between 1974 and 2003 has been apprehended.

The tableau of lachrymose, sick-bucket whining and grovelling interviews we have heard this week has, frankly, been up there with the sort of Italian afternoon Soaps which, for all I know, Lord McAlpine amuses himself of an afternoon while restoring properties in the land of Machievelli’s birth.

But all in all, we won’t be putting the eventual revelation, retribution and compensation of serial institutional sex-abuse across the UK down to Plod, 95% of MPs, the BBC, or the Murdoch/Barclay owned media, then. It will be down to Tom Watson,  perhaps the Independent on Sunday, probably the blogosphere, and the bravery or otherwise of some more ‘weirdos’.

Related: Naivety and Cynicism marching side by side to the chains